Letter: Health care cost-shifting

Monday, March 20, 2017
Health care cost-shifting

Just as the Affordable Care Act is under consideration for revision by Congress, so are the underpinnings of insurance premiums in the open market. One worrisome change brought about by House Resolution 708 or “State Age Rating Flexibility Act” is that insurance companies would be able to adjust your premium depending on your age – the older you get, the higher your premium.

Current law allows the older group to pay as much as three times the rate as the younger group. One could argue that some age adjustment seems fair in view of the services used in the older group. Nevertheless, HR 708 would allow the margin to increase to five times. This increase is pure and simple cost-shifting to consumers.

This looks at the problem from the wrong end of the stick. The real underlying issue is what role we want the for-profit industries to play in the health care/health delivery system.

As a societal decision, we have so far decided to maintain health care insurance as a market-based endeavor. With such a decision comes profits. However, the insurance and pharmaceutical industries are already some of the most profitable companies. So this proposed mechanism to increase premiums is truly cost-shifting to consumers to maintain/enhance these sectors of the health care industry.

To me, the real elephant in the room is that these two industries have virtually no skin in the game. They have, indeed, made significant contributions to our health care system. But continuing to maintain these profits on the backs of the policy holders is not the answer.

Gary Woods